World cricket's crisis at the bottom

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 24, 2011 07:09 hrs

One of the biggest mysteries of world cricket is how a great team like the West Indies can be in a steady and slow state of decline for more than 25 years and counting. In fact no matter how bad things get, they seem to get worse.

In a way it all began in the final of the 1983 World Cup. Chasing a low 183 for a title treble, the mighty giants folded for 140 against the likes of the gentle pace of Mohinder Amarnath.

Pakistan maul West Indies to enter semi-final

While they were an ODI force in the 1980s (they whitewashed us in an ODI series immediately after the 1983 loss), they managed to reach just one World Cup semi-final in seven attempts after that. That too maybe because they met the other big-time choker, South Africa, in the 1996 quarter-final.

They were still the unofficial Test champions till Australia beat them 2-1 in 1995. After that they went into a free fall in the five-day format too.

They made a brief resurgence by winning the ICC Champions trophy in 2004. First England crashed to 217 all down in the final. Then the Windies were tottering at 147-8 and still reached home thanks to the tail-enders.

However this victory and the whole tournament was called as a "turkey of a tournament" and a "fiasco" by some sections of the media. So much for resurgence!

Courtney Walsh carried the bowling torch till 2001.

Brian Lara carried the batting torch till 2007.

But the last decade could well be called the lost decade. It's been mostly darkness all around.

Victory is history

Quick. When's the last the Windies won a Test or series against any one from the top eight Test nations?

Answer: February 2009.

When's the last they won an ODI match against such an opposition?

Answer: June 2009.

An ODI series? April 2008!

That means that while 2008 and 2009 were bad years, 2010 and 2011 were total washouts. How is it that this great Caribbean nation cannot even win a solitary Test or ODI match against any country of worth for about two years? Not even once!

Even Bangladesh and Ireland don't have that record, for they beat England in this very tournament!

In fact the concept of top 8 may also no longer hold good, for the Windies are tied with Bangladesh for points in the ODI format and may become No. 9 or No. 10 in the future.

112/10 and 113/0

Pakistan was 132 all out in the 1999 World Cup final. South Africa was all out for 149 in the 2007 WC semi-final. But both were up against the mighty Aussies at their peak and both teams have had many victories in the last 10 years.

112 all out with Pakistan in the quarter-finals is a new low with absolutely no redemption on the back of a two-year drought.

Pakistan was the happiest nation around when they realized they were facing the weakest team among the quarter-final qualifiers. But even they must have been surprised at this total lack of fight.

Is the team really that bad? Shivnarine Chanderpaul has close to 18,000 international runs! Chris Gayle has two Test triples. Ramnaresh Sarwan's ODI batting average is 43.

Can't this trinity give even one occasional victory?

In fact, Ireland's Kevin 'O Brien and Dutchman Ryan ten Doeschate have impressed more in this World Cup.

While Bangladesh managed to make 283 against India, they were blown away for 58 against the Windies. So the bowling attack can't be that bad!

And as far as problems go, Pakistan cricket has much greater problems than West Indian cricket and yet they continue to stay afloat.

The ICC in the past have talked of a World Cup, where the top six teams will automatically play and the rest will have to go through a qualifying round. If ever such a thing happens, then the Windies might not even play a World Cup!

Crisis at the bottom

So many people talk of Test cricket or ODI cricket dying, but these are the things that will kill cricket itself. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have not been able to play consistent Test and ODI cricket despite being around for so long.

World Cup cartoons

If West Indies falls off the radar, then the club will shrink even further. In the Test rankings, New Zealand is behind even the West Indies!

For years there was a crisis at the top and Australia made everything one-sided.

Now there seems to be an even greater crisis looming at the bottom.

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger